WipeOut Pure Review
No one can deny that the WipeOut series has consistently remained a terrific franchise since its original Psygnosis days. Though some may argue that WipeOut Fusion just wasn't quite up to snuff, I'll contend that it was an enjoyable title; regardless if it wasn't quite the follow-up to 2097/XL we all hoped it to be. WipeOut 3, while pretty good and quite deep, was still missing the magic its predecessor had. Neither of the WipeOut titles since XL have felt quite as smooth, floaty and precise, and unfortunately the newest WipeOut doesn't either.
It was a little heartbreaking to notice that Pure's controls were stiffer than XL; the aircrafts aren't quite as floaty and they don't respond as instantly either. So once again, those who were wishing for an XL-feeling WipeOut are left out in the dark. That is not to say that Pure has poor controls, because it doesn't; they just are as responsive and agile as those found in XL. Pure's stiffer setup takes some time getting used to, and chances are you'll scrape the walls often for the first few minutes. But you'll get the hang of the game soon after. Once you get adjusted to the game (I suggest some free runs by yourself), you'll want to start unlocking what the game has to offer -- and to diehard fans this game has something special. How do four classic WipeOut tracks, in sweet, sweet PSP goodness, sound? Yeah, pretty damn exciting, isn't it? The incentive to play the classic tracks is more than enough to play through the game's tournaments. In total there are 16 tracks to race on, four of which are the classics and there are 8 race crafts to race with. Of course, the staple of the series has always been mixing combat with racing, and WipeOut's weaponry/pick up items continue to impress. There are 10 weapons to choose from, and most are easily recognizable from the past, including: turbo, mines, bomb, shield, quake, plasma, autopilot, rockets, missile, and the disruption bolt. The game has a slightly smaller focus on combat, as opposed to Fusion, which was perhaps a little too war-like.
Regarding the tournaments, any WipeOut fan knows how the core of the game works. Basically, you start the tournament in a slow league (Vector) and this is where you'll continue to get used to the game's physics. Once you complete the Vector league, you will move on to the Venom league, although in Pure you have the choice of going straight into Venom and skipping Vector. Every time you complete a league you unlock a newer one that is also faster, until you reach the fastest, which isn't Rapier, but a secret league that is much faster than Rapier. Each league has its own set of tournaments that you'll have to participate in before you can move on. And every tournament has a different set of races that you must compete in; so Pure is by no means a predictable racer. The game is definitely challenging, though. As you make it to the tougher leagues, the game will become faster, more fun, and at the same time more difficult. Though the difficulty isn't unbearable; you're just going to have to sharpen up your skills and adjust to the new speed if you can't handle it. Aside from the obvious modes like tournament, free play, time trial and single race, Pure also has a mode called Zone Mode. This is a very straightforward gameplay mode where you pick a craft and race it on a specific track designed for the mode through checkpoints. For every point you cross, the game gets faster and faster, and it'll only end when your craft has taken too much damage. Lastly, the game's multiplayer structure features capability of up to 8-players via wi-fi LAN. There is no online, unfortunately, but the LAN mode is still quite a load of fun.
Pure is arguably the PSP's most visually stunning launch title, demonstrating an all-around good use of texturing, lighting, speed and craft detail. The game's crafts are superbly detailed and sharper than I had originally presumed they would be. Every line on the aircrafts runs smoothly and evenly, without any plaguing aliasing issues -- creating an overall sleek appearance that's always pleasing to look at. The lighting details are pretty sweet, as well. The lens flares from the sunlight are always a nice touch, but its the lighting used off in the environments that are quite superb. The neon lit signs all beam vividly, as do the enormous display-monitors setup around the tracks. The game makes some humble use of bloom-lighting for an additional refined touch, so the lighting overall looks pretty darn good, to say the least. The game's framerate is a super silky 30 frames, but the sense-of-speed isn't quite what it was in XL. In XL, going 120MPH felt really quick, and that was in the lowly Vector league. There's no doubt about it that league for league, XL is definitely the faster playing game of the two -- but give Pure some time and it picks up the pace considerably. In addition to that, many may note the utterly flawless draw-in distance in Pure; the city-based tracks are especially gorgeous to admire this feat in.
That said, Pure isn't without its faults. The overall texture work, while good, has some soft spots. Whereas the city tracks look fantastic, and the details on the buildings are admirable; the leafier, nature-based tracks display some spotty environmental structures -- like the trees. The trees look absolutely horrendous and they stand out like a sore thumb because of how they contrast to such a pretty game. You have these ugly, flat trees, and then you have this wonderfully detailed track and a good-looking aircraft on it...it just looks off. The background bitmaps in the nature tracks are also really, really flat, gray and boring. It's not something you'll really care too much about once you're actually racing, and concentrating on the road ahead, but it's there and it's ugly. With that aside, all that can be said about Pure's visuals now is that it's quite close to what the screenshots look like, so Sony delivered on their promise. Hopefully the next title shows us some prettier nature tracks -- thankfully a majority of the game's tracks are city-based anyways. And it needs to be mentioned that the track design is Godly; Pure's got some of the nicest designed courses a futuristic racer has ever seen.
What has never changed about WipeOut is its fantastic soundtracks. Always pulsating and full of bass, WipeOut Pure continues this lively tradition and features a soundtrack that you'll definitely enjoy -- provided, that you enjoy techno/electronica. There are 19 tracks from 19 different artists, most of which are pretty obscure, with the exception of Aphex Twin and Photek. Connecting the PSP to my 5.1 Logitech PC setup proved to be a very good move. Not only did I hear the soundtrack a lot cleaner, but I also heard the game's crystal clear sound effects, as well. WipeOut Pure's audio is arguably the best of the launch titles overall; not only does the soundtrack rock, but the quality of the audio is superb, as well. I just wish the soundtrack was slightly larger.
In addition to Ridge Racer, Twisted Metal: Head On and Lumines, WipeOut Pure is most certainly another must-have launch title. While not without its problems, Pure is still a fantastic racer and above all, a worthy inclusion to the series. Pure is visually stunning, with the exception of some quirks here and there, and its eventual sense-of-speed is a very rewarding experience to behold. While the game doesn't quite play like XL, as some have said it will, it still stands on its own in the series as a fantastic title, and arguably the second best entry of the series. Make sure that you secure a copy of WipeOut Pure with your PSP if you're a fan of the series, you won't regret it.
3/24/2005 Arnold Katayev